What is a shrinker?
It is the first step in your journey to thriving with your prosthesis after undergoing an amputation. A shrinker is a tight but breathable compression garment worn over your limb for the purpose of preparing your limb for a prosthesis. Shrinkers function to evenly compress your limb in order to reduce swelling, or edema, within your residual limb. Depending on where you are in your journey towards recovery, you may have already noticed how the swelling in your limb fluctuates. Swelling is a natural reaction from your body in response to your operation, but this is not the only factor that influences volume. Overall weight gain or loss, temperature, activity levels, and even medication can have an effect on your limb volume, and a shrinker will help you manage these fluctuations and prepare you for a full-time prosthesis, especially early in the process of recieving your prosthesis when limb volume is particularly unstable. You will likely notice loss of volume in the first few months. That is normal and expected.
You may find no difficulty applying your shrinker, but every individual's experience is unique. Your limb may be sensitive or healing from recent surgery, so it is important to be delicate and ask for help applying your shrinker if needed. First, grab your shrinker with both hands and scrunch it until your hands reach the bottom seam. Stretch the top of the shrinker horizontally and gently pull the garment onto your limb. If needed, ask another individual for an additional pair of hands to help stretch and don your shrinker. Your shrinker should cover your entire knee and extend to cover most of your thigh; if your amputation is above the knee, your shrinker should extend to cover your upper thigh. Check that your shrinker is pulled tight and void of any wrinkles, and that it remains pulled up and snug on your limb. Your shrinker should be worn at all times other than when you are bathing or cleaning the garment, including while you are sleeping. The shrinker may move out of position or come off throughout the day or while sleeping; this is normal, but it is important to properly reapply your shrinker as soon as possible. When lying or sitting down, remember to keep your limb straight and avoid bending your knee in order to avoid further issues such as contractures.
Cleaning and maintaining your shrinker is simple, but requires diligence. Ideally, your shrinker should be cleaned at least daily, just as your limb should be. Your prosthetist will give you two shrinkers; one to wear, and one to clean. Cleaning your shrinker is as easy as following the manufacturer's instructions included with the garment, with most recommending hand or machine washing on low settings and with mild soap. Your shrinker can be hung to dry or machine dried on low heat settings.
You are now ready to properly use and maintain your shrinker, and you have made a huge step in reaching your definitive, full-time prosthesis. While simply wearing and cleaning a garment each day may seem insignificant, utilizing your shrinker is an important milestone that represents your ability to take your recovery into your own hands.
Even after you have gotten a prosthesis and are acclimated to using your prosthesis, you will still use your shrinker every night. This will reduce swelling that can occur when you are not wearing your prosthesis and ensure that you have a good fit of your prosthesis when you get up in the morning. Be sure to always have your prosthetist replace your shrinkers every 6 months. They stretch out and need to be replaced to ensure good compression.
Contact us if you are in need of new shrinkers.